copy short urlprintemail
+ A
A -

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an unannounced visit to Crimea on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the Black Sea peninsula's annexation from Ukraine, a move most of the world condemned as illegal.

He also went on a "working visit" to the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol according to the Kremlin, Russian media reported on Sunday.

In Mariupol, he visited several locations and spoke to residents, the state-run TASS news agency reported. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin updated him about reconstruction works in the area.

Mariupol was destroyed by heavy fighting between the start of Russia's invasion in February last year and May, when the city's last defenders were taken captive.

Putin's trip came a day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest over the forced transfer of children to Russia following the all-out invasion last year.

"Our president ... knows how to surprise in the best sense of the word," the Moscow-appointed governor of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, wrote on Telegram.

Russian state television showed Putin opening an art school for youth in the city. He also visited a children's educational camp located at the excavation site of the ancient city of Chersonesus, inside present-day Sevastopol.

The choice to focus on children was striking given that just hours earlier, the UN-backed war crimes court said "there are reasonable grounds" to believe that Putin bears "individual criminal responsibility" for the deportations of Ukrainian kids, estimated to number in the thousands.

Russia denies the claim that the children are being forcibly taken from Ukraine and instead portrays the transfers as a humanitarian mission.

It was Putin's first visit to Crimea on the March 18 anniversary since 2020, when he presented medals to construction workers on the Kerch Bridge connecting the peninsula and mainland Russia. In 2021 and 2022, Putin marked the occasion at concerts in Moscow.

Putin has generally avoided areas close to the fighting in Ukraine since his military's massive attack on the neighbouring country in February 2022.

At the end of last year, however, he personally inspected repair work on the same bridge, which was severely damaged in an apparent Ukrainian attack in the autumn.

copy short url   Copy